I've been initiating a lot of big, important changes in my life lately. I seek out change when I notice that some aspect of my life is no longer working and I want something to be different. I look forward to fresh starts and new beginnings, but in order to experience those, I also have to experience some degree of unknown and uncertainty. As a sensitive introvert, *this* is what creates feelings of stress and chaos. I feel the most anxious when I can't control the outcome, when I can't see a clear path to my desired end state, or when I encounter significant detours or obstacles along the way. It's in these moments that I feel the most overwhelmed, and sometimes paralyzed - I stall and can't take any action at all.
I used to see detours and obstacles as a sign that I had made the wrong choice and was on the wrong path. Over time, I've learned to see them in a new way. Rather than immediately assuming that I've chosen wrongly, I've learned to get curious and explore the true meaning of the challenge I'm facing. I ask myself, is it possible that I am headed in the right direction, but there's something about the way I'm approaching the situation that I need to adjust? Or, is this detour a "test" of my endurance or a way to prove to myself that I do really want what I'm pursuing and that I'm willing to do the hard work to arrive at the future I want?
I took a break from my life coaching business to focus on family matters for awhile. When it was time to re-engage with my work, I started taking steps to bring my business back to life. It wasn't long before uncertainty and doubt started creeping in and I became consumed with worry about the financial aspects. As the stress grew, my fears became all-consuming and eventually I found myself procrastinating in my work and surfing the job boards instead. I found a job that sounded appealing, I submitted my resume, and I went through a series of interviews. After my third one, I was pretty confident that I was going to receive an offer. I felt a connection with the people, I believed in the company's mission, and I felt an initial sense of relief regarding finances. I reasoned that if I received this offer, it was a sign that I was supposed to take this job and that it was time to put my business aside.
That night, I didn't sleep well and the next morning, I felt emotional, agitated, and tense. I allowed myself the gift of some time to explore what was at the root of these feelings. After some quiet reflection and writing in my journal, I came to see an unexpected truth: I didn't really want this job. I was pursuing it only to placate my fears and worries: about stepping into my mission and about my financial security. Although my logical, rational brain was pushing me toward safety and security, my heart was pulling me toward the realization of my dreams. In reality, taking this job would mean that I was giving up on my dreams and my business, and more importantly, that I was giving up on myself.
I did receive an offer that very day, which I turned down. Afterwards, I felt an immediate sense of peace. And by the next day, I knew in my heart I had made the right decision. I also knew that I was in for a long, hard, scary road ahead, but I made the commitment to myself right then and there that I wouldn't give up on my business, or myself, without first doing everything in my power to make it work.
Discerning the meaning of the challenges and obstacles we encounter is in itself a learning process. It takes time and practice to learn which obstacles are signs that we are headed in the wrong direction and which are there to build our strength and prepare us for the future that we want. This discernment process involves paying attention to the signals we are receiving from our body, and turning inward, inquiring into the energy of our heart.
Making the choice to follow the path of our heart will require our determination, commitment, focus, and hard work. We need to set aside what others think will be best for us and tune into what *we* think will be best for us. We will certainly face challenges, obstacles, and setbacks. We may procrastinate, stall, and resist, which are all signs of being gripped by fear. Above all, we need to learn to trust: in the process, in our dreams, and in our self. We must cultivate belief in our ability to accomplish our dreams, even if we can't see how yet.
The universe is always sending us signs about our callings and our path. We are being invited to grow beyond our limits and evolve into our highest potential. The messages and clues can show up anywhere. But do we notice them?
I love being surprised by the discovery of hearts where I least expect them. Whenever I find one, such as on this painted rock lying along the sidewalk, it reminds me that my purpose in this life involves learning to truly love. My journey has taken me through some challenging experiences to show me all the ways I have been blocking love from flowing into and through my life.
I'm a sensitive introvert, so I spend a lot of time in my head, telling myself stories about how unlovable I am. I'm also a recovering over-achiever and people pleaser because I believed the only way to receive love was to prove how good I was, and that I deserved it.
Through my life experiences, it's been made very clear to me that I've not been good about loving myself. And because I'm not good about loving myself, I'm also not good at loving others, or accepting love from others. The past few years, I've been learning and practicing the art of self-love.
It's not been easy practice for me. There are a lot of old wounds that have needed to be healed. I have been learning how to forgive myself for all the wrongs I have done. I have been learning self-compassion and how to stop beating myself up for every mistake. I have been learning to make self-care a priority and caring for all aspects of my wellbeing. I have been exploring the old beliefs and stories about my lovability, and I'm still working to rewrite them. None of these lessons have been easy.
But as difficult as it's been, it's been equally rewarding. Because breaking my heart open to expose all the hurt and wounds and brokenness inside has allowed my heart to finally begin the healing process, which is creating space for love to flow in. 💜
**Courage** For this sensitive introvert, it's hard to heed the truth in my heart, to even acknowledge that there's a deeper truth in there. I don't want to hear it because then I know I'll have to do something about it.
I'd much rather ignore it awhile longer, hide out, and stay in the safety of my too-small my comfort zone. I procrastinate and let myself get distracted doing other things, often meaningless things that don't really matter in the long run.
I do all this avoiding not because I dislike change. No. I actually really do believe change is a necessity in life. Without change, it's difficult to fully experience all that our life is waiting to offer. Without changing and evolving, it's impossible to grow into our full potential.
I avoid my heart's truths not because I fear change, but because I'm terrified by the unknown. I prefer to avoid the chaos and overwhelm that come when I set foot into unknown waters. Yes, I am pro change. But this sensitive introvert wants it to be on *her* terms. I seek to control the experience so *I* can feel in control.
The thing is, the more I try to push and pull and force and control, the more overwhelmed and stressed I feel. I've learned that when I allow myself to ease up, to stop grasping for control, to start going with the flow of the experience, it becomes much less chaotic and I end up feeling less overwhelmed and more at ease. I usually even come to enjoy the experience itself. Letting go isn't easy to do, it takes continual practice.
I'm learning to trust that if my actions are truly coming from the heart, then no matter what happens, even if it's unexpected or difficult, it's meant to happen. There's a reason I'm going through this particular experience at this particular time. There's a better outcome that I can't see yet, or there's something I need to learn. So I'm listening, heart. I'm learning to trust and find the courage to act.
I’ve been questioning and exploring my life purpose for years: why am I really here? Who and how am I being called to be? What am I supposed to be doing with my life? In what ways am I supposed to be serving others? These are big, important questions so I often find myself grasping for or demanding quick answers so I can get on with it. But our deepest callings and our true life purpose may take years to emerge. Each little calling we hear along the way is pulling us forward, preparing us for the next calling and then the next. I have found that understanding the topic of callings has presented a challenge for myself and some of my clients. What is a calling? How do we know when we are being called? How do we know if something is a true calling or just a whim? What if we don’t want to pursue a calling? The whole idea of finding your calling, let alone pursuing it, can feel overwhelming. In this post, I attempt to simplify it enough to get you started and share five things you need to know right now.
We will be invited to participate in a variety of calls over the course of our lives. Some will feel easier than others. Some will be downright terrifying. Sometimes we’ll say ‘yes,’ sometimes we’ll say ‘no,’ and sometimes we’ll say, ‘not yet.’ Each time we say yes, we’ll stretch more, grow more, and move that much closer to evolving to our highest potential. My hope for you is that you be open, be curious, and be willing to explore the possibilities of your calls.
In the photo above, which I took for a daily photo challenge on Instagram, there's the face on the far right, looking up. The one I placed there intentionally when I made this collage a few years ago. Then there's the face in the center, that I didn't see until the shadow highlighted it and I looked at the picture on my phone much later.
The first time I became aware that we all had an interior “shadow” was a few years ago when I read Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life by Richard Rohr. I remember being curious about this concept and although I spent some time reflecting on what my own shadows might be, the significance of this concept eluded me. I’ve since read more about shadow work in various other books and each time, I’d still leave the topic feeling a bit puzzled. Reading about shadows and experiencing them firsthand are two very different things.
Our shadow is made up of parts of our personality that we’ve denied, buried, or repressed. Rohr defined it as “what you refuse to see about yourself, and what you do not want others to see.” This past year I’ve had many, many, (many!) opportunities to become intimate with what was lurking just beyond the light. The clues are in our behavior, such as:
No one really *wants* to know the ugly truth about herself. As unpleasant as it is, in order for us to grow spiritually, it is absolutely critical for us to contend with our shadows. Otherwise, as I discovered, these denied or hidden parts of ourselves will keep tapping us on the shoulder, begging for attention. And sometimes, what we’ve repressed will burst forth at unexpected and undesirable times.
Shadow work is not about fixing your weaknesses or abolishing what you don’t like about yourself. It’s coming into relationship with these repressed parts of yourself and transforming them into something positive. Rather than judging people, perhaps you learn to be forgiving. Instead of gripping tightly to control, perhaps you learn to relax your grip and go with the flow more. According to Rohr, “once you have faced your own hidden or denied self, there is not much to be anxious about anymore.” You’ve seen the truth. And you can get on with evolving into your True Self, your highest potential.
#presence #spirituality #lifepurpose #lifelessons #personalgrowth #spiritualgrowth #spiritualbooks #innerwork #reflection #shadow
"Creativity" is something I've struggled with for most of my adult life. My focus has been on achieving my goals, striving to maintain total control of my environment, and doing it all to some impossibly high (and incredibly unrealistic) expectation of perfection...only as a superwoman could. I was too hard on myself to endeavor into creative expression. I "didn't have time" to be creative, I told myself. In reality, I was too scared to let myself open up to the vulnerability that creativity requests; too afraid to come out from behind the veil of perfection and control.
Yesterday I attended a creative yoga class. Our intention was to keep the channel open and find joy in creative expression.... through the act itself, not by producing any particular or perfect end result. I cast aside all wishes of creating a perfect masterpiece and instead set a personal intention for openness and curiosity. I gave my Self permission and freedom to play. I had no ideal in mind, other than to enjoy the process and see what emerged. I chose to stand rather than sit so I could get my whole body involved and so I had the mobility to see what I was creating from multiple perspectives. I had to trust my inner guidance to know when I was done (a struggle for this recovering perfectionist...to know when something is done rather than ceaselessly striving and then over-doing!).
I wasn't worried about what wasn't getting done while I was creating. I wasn't afraid of what others would think of what I created. I wasn't looking around, comparing what I was creating to what was being created by others in the class. I was fully present with my Self and my art. When I was done, I turned around and said to no one in particular, "That was fun!" Something was ignited in me and the joy flowed freely.
And as if the Universe was making sure I had learned something deeper from this experience....as I was trying to get all of my still wet paintings loaded into my car at the end of the class, I dropped two on the floor. They folded up onto each other and onto themselves, altering what I had created. A year ago, the perfectionist in me would have been really upset that my creations were "ruined." The emerging artist in me today sees beauty in the flaws, like they were meant to be. There is no perfection in creativity. As there is no perfection in life.
There are many ways to be creative, and art is only one. We can bring creativity into anything we do. Creativity, and life, asks that we be open, be curious, and be fully present. It helps if we give ourselves permission to bring a sense of playfulness into all that we do. These actions may require us to lean into our vulnerabilities and fears. But presence helps us with this. The more present we become, the easier it is to let go of the fears that masquerade as control and perfection and that hold us back from reaching our full potential in life.
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once (she) grows up." Pablo Picasso
When we awaken to our truth we realize we are free (Kristi Bowman).
What is our truth? Sometimes it's hard to find because we are easily influenced by external sources. We hear a good idea and think, I will do that too! And we excitedly start down the course. We muster up our courage and we take swift action. And then - nothing happens. What we were hoping for doesn't materialize. We don't get what we wanted. We feel disconnected from people. It's harder than it should be, or takes longer than we thought it would. We feel isolated and alone.
Then the negative self-talk kicks in. "What was I thinking?" "Why did I think I could pull that off anyway?" "No one understands me." "No one wants what I have to offer." <Insert your version of negative self-talk here.>
We become filled with uncertainty, doubt, and fear and we are unable to act. We get stuck, we stall, we freeze.
And then one day, we step far enough away from the situation to look at it with objective eyes. Then we see what's really going on. We realize: "Wait, this isn't what I wanted at all." In some cases, we discover that the path we pursued is actually opposite of what we really wanted to begin with, had we just taken a moment in the beginning to consider that. Perhaps the path we followed doesn't align to our deeply held beliefs or our innermost core values. Or maybe we neglected our deeply held talents and gifts and tried to do something that we didn't love.
And this new awareness comes not from harsh negative self-talk, but from a more gentle and understanding place. This new awareness is presented to us in a more loving and compassionate tone, because it comes from our heart.
We approach this new awareness with curiosity and openness. We can then say to our self with honesty, grace, and self-compassion: "That way may work GREAT for that person. But it doesn't work great for me." We let go of what's not working. We reframe what it means to "fail" and realize that every situation we encounter - every single one - is an opportunity for learning. Every situation brings with it a lesson and we just need to open up and give it space to emerge. When we are ready, the lesson becomes clear. And then we can choose a new path.
Our heart is wise and knows what it is that we truly want. Our heart approaches everything with light and love and joy. Our mind, on the other hand, swirls around our fears and doubts. Too often, we allow fear to run our life. When we choose fear over love, we dim our inner light.
When we follow our heart, we know our innermost desires. When we follow our heart, we radiate light, love and joy. When we follow our heart, we tell the Universe that we are open to possibilities and are ready to receive the synchronicity and miracles that are just waiting for us to be ready.
Have you ever read a book and realized that the author wrote it just for you? Or have you read exactly the right book at exactly the right moment in your journey? That happened to me when I read Life by the Cup: Ingredients for a Purpose-Filled Life of Bottomless Happiness and Limitless Success by Zhena Muzyka. There is so much goodness in this book, and one of the best ways I know to express gratitude to Zhena for writing it is to share my top three take-aways from her words of wisdom.
Lesson #1: Pain is the messenger of change. When we feel pain, our first response is to make it go away. Our opportunity is to pay attention to the pain so we learn the lesson it brings: is it time to change, to grow, to heal? Emotional or physical, reflect on what your pain is trying to tell you so you can seek out proactive solutions and move forward with optimism and hope.
Lesson #2: Do what your heart wants, not what everyone else thinks you should do. Information and advice comes from everywhere. Sometimes we blindly follow along with something because we believe it’s what we “should do” or are “supposed” to do. Other times, we know what we really want but we let fear get in the way of going for it. I recently had an experience where my fear said NO, but my heart said, GO! I chose to listen to my heart. Even if the result doesn’t end up as I hope, at least I won’t regret not going for it. Don’t let your doubts, thoughts, and worries drown the voice of your heart. Choose love, joy, and passion and let your heart show you the way.
Lesson #3: Each of us is born with a genius, a talent, which lies dormant until we discover it and bring it into the light. It is our responsibility to uncover our genius and to share it with others. We get clues along the way, but we doubt and dismiss them. We bury our genius, hiding it out of fear that others may not like what they see. When we hide from our true potential, we play safe and small and it becomes difficult to find true happiness. But when we bring our genius into the light and lovingly serve from that place, we radiate joy from the inside out.
The character strength Love of Learning involves exploring new topics, mastering new skills, and increasing your knowledge. It’s easy to view learning as a discrete event: we read a book or we take a class, for example. But learning can occur at any time as we go about our daily life. Here are three ways to exercise your learning muscle throughout your week.
1. Strive for personal excellence. Rather than seeking “perfection” or competing with other people, focus instead on becoming the best version of you that you can be. This is one of the reasons I love the VIA Character Strengths so much and why I’ve been blogging about them for the last several weeks. Bringing more attention to our character strengths is empowering, energizing, and motivating, and enables us to take our effectiveness to a whole new level. When I feel myself struggling, I can draw upon the strength of learning and ask myself “What am I finding so challenging in this situation?” or “What is preventing me from being at my best right now?” When I approach these questions from the perspective of learning, I am more open to seeing where the opportunities for change lie.
2. Fully engage with people to learn about them and learn from them. When you’re talking to people, make it a goal to learn about them by asking questions and really listening to what they have to say. Just the other day, I was talking to someone I’ve known for two years and until that conversation, hadn’t realized that at one point in our careers, we had both worked in the same building at the same time. You can also learn from the people you’re interacting with. Over the past week I’ve talked to two different people about a particular challenge I’m facing and I walked away from each conversation with new perspectives and ideas to consider. Each of these individuals helped me look at my challenge from a different vantage point and their insights were incredibly helpful in me getting one step closer to clarity and resolution.
3. Look for opportunities to try something new. We grow when we encounter new and different experiences and stretch outside of our comfort zone. Tackling big fears certainly moves us out of our comfort zone, but we are not limited just to those. We can grow just as much by doing something on a smaller scale. Last year, I made it a personal goal to have at least 40 new and different experiences, which included tackling my big fear of heights by parasailing and tackling smaller fears by trying aerial hammocks, doing hot yoga, and being on the radio. No matter the “scale” of the experience, I learned something about myself from each new thing I tried.
What do you do to keep your learning muscle fresh? Challenge yourself to seek at least one new and different experience this week and see what you learn from it.
Resources: Character Strengths and VIA Survey
Peterson, C., & Park, N. (2009). Classifying and measuring strengths of character. In S. J. Lopez & C. R. Snyder (Eds.), Oxford handbook of positive psychology, 2nd edition (pp. 25-33). New York: Oxford University Press. www.viacharacter.org
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification. New York: Oxford University Press and Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. www.viacharacter.org